Archive for May, 2010

31
May
10

Serving With Distinction

Here in the United States, it is Memorial Day, and I would like to lift up the past, current and future members of the armed forces, both those who survived their service and those who died while serving.

In peacetime, military service can be demanding enough, but in times of actions and conflicts, even more so, and it’s been a long time since we’ve been in a truly peacetime mode, so my respect for those who choose to put on uniforms. Also, my heart goes out to the families who sometimes have to go months or years without those they love because of that duty.

But even beyond my own countrymen and countrywomen, I also lift up those who serve in other nations in their armies and navies and other services. Many throughout the world serve with honor and with noble intentions (or because they are required to serve) and yes, that sometimes includes those who end up in conflict with us. While there may at times be evil forces out there to fight, rarely are the soldiers on the battlefield or the sailors at sea or the pilots in the air evil. Rarely do those who wear the uniforms intend anything but to serve the nations they love, and they have families, dreams and loves.

So, let us remember those who have served and those who will, on this Memorial Day.

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29
May
10

Falling Stars by Miz Pink

Is it wrong for me to be sad at the passing of Dennis Hopper and how much less cool a world it will be without him in it…

…and yet give the passing of Gary Coleman about as much attention as I would the death of some friend of a friend of a friend?

I mean its not like I’m glad Gary is dead. I thought Different Strokes was an entertaining show even if I did get sick of the “Whatchoo talkin’ about Willis?” line after a while. I thought it was sad about his anger issues and self loathing issues and the fact the other two folks who were child stars along with him in the show had effed-up lives with one committing suicide and the other in and out of jail.

And it’s not like Dennis was any saint. Drugs, booze and general madman behavior—Crazy talk—Batcrap wild persona—Weird ass roles in movies. And yet to me he’s an artist whose loss will be keenly felt while Gary is a blurb in People magazine.

See this is what happens when the kids actually leave me alone for 20 minutes and I start thinking about things other than pullups and feedings and who needs to go the urgent care unit for stitches today….

27
May
10

Immigration Enforcement Insanity

Back in April, Big Man wrote a post here at his Raving Black Lunatic blog called “This Sounds Familiar,” and he compared the new immigration laws in Arizona to the issue of Freedom Papers that Blacks had to carry around in those cases when their masters had freed them from slavery.

The post was one of those times that I broke my usual rule of engaging with Thordaddy, who is a big supporter of the Arizona immigration laws (which allows police pretty much any time they have a “legitimate” reason to interact with a person to demand that the person prove her or she is in the state [and country] legally). I pointed out to him repeatedly how the law was ripe with potential for abuse because it inevitably would lead to some Mexican-heritage (or other Latino) U.S. citizen being targeted, perhaps jailed, perhaps abused, and possibly even deported.

Over and over, Thordaddy played dumb, as if I was talking nonsense. I know he really wouldn’t care if a Mexican-American citizen got arrested, beat up or even deported, because Thordaddy is clearly one of the worst kinds of racists—the kind who won’t publicly say that they like it when non-whites get the shaft, and who try to be all intellectual about how discrimination and racism are OK and natural.

But I digress.

Because, in case you haven’t heard, a case in Chicago pretty much proves my point about what is so wrong with the Arizona situation.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read about it here, but I’ll summarize quickly:

  • Eduardo Caraballo, a Puerto Rican-born man, was detained for over three days in Chicago on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant. (By the way, being Puerto Rican means you’re an American citizen)
  • Despite presenting identifying documents and even his birth certificate, Caraballo was held by federal immigration authorities over the weekend and threatened with deportation
  • He was only released when his congressman, Luis Gutierrez, intervened on his behalf
  • Authorities assumed he was Mexican, and planned to send him to Mexico

So, a guy who’s live on the mainland of the United States since he was a baby, and who was a citizen anyway, was going to be shipped “back to Mexico,” even though he was a U.S. citizen and wasn’t even Mexican.

Suddenly, the example I gave to Thordaddy in our argument online, wherein I imagined a Mexican-American U.S. citizen in Arizona taking a stroll gets arrested and perhaps sent over the border against his will, isn’t even wild speculation. I imagined what might happen to a guy who might have just gone out for a walk and left his wallet and ID at home. Here we have a guy in Chicago, where the immigration laws aren’t even as draconian as in Arizona, who almost has it happen to him and he HAD identification to show he was a citizen.

I think Rep. Gutierrez said it best when he noted: “In Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they’re legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they’re an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government… could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen. It’s very, very, very dangerous ground to tread.”

23
May
10

Reaching Out and Touching Others

It’s really easy to look at big-time TV preachers or “Christian” commentators on Fox News or something…or to look at congregations large or small that discriminate or focus on trying to legislate morality…and to say Christianity is oppressive.

It would even be easy to look at the headline I have for today’s post and to make some joke about Catholic priests and altar boys.

What is harder for critics of the Christian faith to deal with, and painfully easy for them to ignore, are commercials like these:

www.ucc.org/god-is-still-speaking/ads/televison-ads.html

Now, I’m not saying every United Church of Christ-affiliated congregation is wonderful and perfect. I can say that what I’ve seen of them overall is pretty cool and truly uplifting and inclusive, very much along the lines of those commercials. The church I and my wife and children attend (and which is UCC) is one of the largest in our area (though by no means is it huge) and it is heavily involved in community efforts, relief efforts in other states and countries, and inclusiveness. The message of Christ is clear and strong (unlike at a Universalist/Unitarian church, where it’s more melding of “all faiths”) but so too is a real love of people and supportivness of them in times of trials and needs.

For all the vocal nature of some of the more unpleasant and ill-tempered Christians, they aren’t the majority. I daresay that the majority may not be folks like the UCC congregation I enjoy. It’s probably somewhere between UCC and apathy on the spectrum, I’d say. But overall, there are a LOT of Christians in this country and believe me, if the loud-mouthed assholes spoke for the U.S. Christian population as a whole, Roe v. Wade would have been toast long ago, prayer would be mandatory in schools and no one would be distributing condoms to teens.

I would like to see more critics of Christianity give play to the very good works that have been done and continue to be done, and to look at ads like the ones above, instead of focusing on the hateful folks.

19
May
10

A Volcano of Oil

That’s what it is, isn’t it? A huge volcano under the Gulf, spewing oil because some greedy companies weren’t on their job about the failsafe device that was supposed to make an oil drilling disaster like this “impossible.”

Watch this and realize how much worse it is than most of us know…or want to know.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3eEqAwEJ7M

And yet, we continue to drag our feet on freeing our nations of dependence on oil.

We continue (all of us, myself included) to squander power that is in such limited supply, and that comes at such a high cost to the Earth and all life on it.

15
May
10

Be Honest Now… by Miz Pink

I have a friend. No make that acquaintence. I mean I’ve been the beach with her and her kiddos and my kiddos before but I met her online first and then met her in the flesh and I sometimes wonder about her mental stability.

Okay. Let me start over. I’m on a ramble.

This gal I know…I see her online and I see her in real life.

She’s big. Aint nuthin wrong with that. I know lots of big folks and I’m not gonna rip on you for being overweight or in some cases so fat that the docs have to roll out the term ‘morbidly obese’ for you.

Now this gal I’m talking about, she isn’t sloppy or anything. I think she’s pretty well put together and all that. But she’s definitely overweight…really wide. You might use ‘Rubenesque’ to describe her but I think she’s more than a few pounds outside that realm.

So why the hell are every one of her album pics on Facebook, and the pics of her on her blog, and her Twitter avatar…why do they all look like a woman who’s a pretty average weight?

She and her husband are wizards with camera angle and lighting, and she wears clothes that slenderize her and she never has a shot that goes below mid cleavage.

My thought is: Why take shots like that?

It isn’t honest. It’s false advertising. Now I’d cut her some slack if she didn’t like her body size and shape and was desirous of being more fit. But she ain’t. She’s content with her body…it’s pretty clear from my interactions with her. She thinks pretty highly of herself in most ways (maybe too highly) and she doesn’t have any self-esteem issues.

So, why make yourself look so much different…so much ‘better’ in the sense that most people define better…online??? I don’t get it. If you’re proud of who you are, and your comfortable in your body why the need to vamp yourself up for the folks online most of whom have never met you and never will.

I don’t know why this bugs me so much but it does. Maybe because I see too many people who are one way in real life and totally different online. They are civilized humans face to face but asshats in online discussions. I guess I want people to act the way online that they do in real life, and show the same kinda pride in both places.

08
May
10

Failure to Acknowledge

Pop quiz: What s the single biggest impediment to an alcoholic or any other kind of addict getting the help he or she needs to break the addiction?

I’m sure that most of you get an A on this quiz, because it’s pretty obvious to most people.

It’s the failure to admit that you have a problem to begin with. As long as an addict says, “I can quit any time I want” or “I’m not hurting anyone else” or any number of other excuses that minimize or deny there is an addiction, the person will not get help. Or if the person does, it will be help that does little or no good.

Maybe the person changes their ways slightly. Gets drunk less, for example. On the one hand, you could say it’s improvement, but is it really a good thing that the person is driving drunk only a third of the time now? That’s still potentially deadly, for the alcoholic and all the poor innocent bystanders. Or maybe the person only gets drunk and beats his or her children violently a quarter as often as before. Is that improvement? Yes. Is it good? No. Is it enough? No.

This is largely what has happened with racism. Too many people say things like, “Well, I don’t do anything racist” or “Slavery and Jim Crow is over and has been a long time.”

Those are good things, certainly. But did ending slavery end racist acts and policies? No. Ending Jim Crow didn’t do that either, as there are many ways to discriminate. Not hiring qualified workers or color simply because of their color. Arresting people of color more often and giving them harsher sentences than whites. Revitalizing white areas or making downtrodden areas attractive for white people and leaving impoverished areas to languish or forcing people of color out of the neighborhood to make room for the white people.

The cycle of privilege goes merrily on, and while there has been improvement, and continues to be in some areas, the basic problem remains: racism.

It remains in part because it can never truly be eradicated. But it flourishes quietly and continues to harm people of color in the United States because too many people live in denial of its existence and power.

People like Thordaddy, who once posted here before I banned him, and who posts at Big Man’s blog and other places. Heck, you can go to the comments of this post to see how he does exactly what I’m talking about (by the way, many of my own comments there are going to see revamping and repeating here, so if some of the rest of my post sounds familiar, you’re probably a visitor here and at Raving Black Lunatic, and I apologize for the repetition). He suggests (and sometimes has said outright) that because blacks have rights, and more than they did at one time, that racism is a myth, and that blacks are simply lying that racism is increasing and that their lives are as bad as in slave time.

First, I don’t know of many blacks who claim that things are just as bad as they were in slave times or Jim Crow. What they are saying is that a lot of bad things are going on, and some thing that were improving are now getting worse.

And it’s true. Because too many people claim that when things got better, the core problem vanished. It didn’t. And if you blithely ignore that the racism remains, you give it room to grow again, like a weed in an untended garden.

Failure to acknowledge racism is permission to let it grow.

Of course, the problem is that no one wants to be labeled a racist, as Big Man pointed out in his “Stigma” blog post.

Racism, as a word, is a pretty neutral one. Racism doesn’t mean evil in all cases. If I see an elderly female Asian behind the wheel of a car and assume she will be a bad driver, as I do about 90% of the time, that is racist. Is it evil? No? Does it harm her? No. But it is racist.

We’re all racist. The trouble is that so much baggage has been attached to the word that it is assumed to be a pejorative term. And so no one wants to acknowledge its pervasive power, lest the label be attached to them.

How do we get around that? As Big Man notes, he doesn’t know the answer.

Frankly, neither do I, and I don’t think there is a good answer, at least none that can be broadly applied. Because the answer is for whites to take a good long hard look at history and the current day and to recognize things like white privilege and inequity. Many aren’t willing to do that, because they don’t want to believe it exists, they are ashamed of the prospect, or whatever else.

But let’s say you get them to recognize such things exist.

Then they have to care. And recognition doesn’t always equal caring. Or at least not caring enough.

And if you’re someone who thinks privilege is totally normal and should be encouraged and continued, as Thordaddy does, then you you won’t want to have a society that is fair and based on merit and personal traits (rather than connections, skin color, etc.), and you won’t ever care. Instead, you will try to convince the gullible that racism is a myth and that it hurts no one anymore, simply because it no longer enslaves them or allows them to be lynched with impunity.

And frankly, even if your aren’t as bad as a Thordaddy and you’re simply scared (of losing jobs, of economy tanking, etc.), and you’re white, you might start to see things like equitable and fair treatment as threats, even if only on a subconscious basis. And if you do, you will want to narrow things like the definition of racism, or pretend it’s gone.

It’s all about education, and people are very selective about what they really want to learn. It requires more self-education than anything else, in order for it to be internalized and be productive, and people are even more selective about the knowledge and learning they will actively seek out.

As I noted, we’re all racist on some level, about someone or some group or something. It’s all levels and gradations, though. And some people’s racism has the power to do more harm than other people’s racism. But because many of us, of all colors, have lost the ability to treat the word racism neutrally and really talk about things openly, we get nowhere.

Racism had long since become a dirty word, and so people can’t see it as an accurate and useful word, and understand that it has gray areas and doesn’t equal “evil.”

There’s not making it a neutral word again. No chance of it. And if you pick a new word, the stigma eventually attached to that will make it a dirty word too, unless people are willing to learn and to grow.

People have to want to learn and see and understand and do better. They can only do that, I think, by continued exposure to one another and honest communication.

But I don’t have much hope for that in this age of Tweets and Facebook and niche discussion boards and hypersensitivity.

I fear we’ve lost our ability to discuss widely, and most of us now retreat to those places and groups where we don’t feel threatened.

I think about my own travels online and among people in real life (not simply the racial ones), and the problem is that so often, I will try to talk about real shit with folks, and then they get defensive, no matter how diplomatic or reasonable I try to be. No matter how hard I try to show that we’re both right and wrong about some things and that some things aren’t cut-and-dried. But it breaks down quickly, and the ability to have real discourse disintegrates.

All too often, I’ve been in discussions with agnostics, atheists, racists, liberals, conservatives, etc., and I can say things like, “hey, I see your point” or “yeah, you might be right about that” but they never budge on their own positions and never consider that their positions need adjustment (or so rarely that it might as well be “never.”)

Discussion is a two-way street and there needs to be give and take. But very few people are really willing to give…not even a little.

It’s very disheartening, and has led me to leave many online venues and to distance myself from people in real life because they only want to hear their own views parroted and supported and reinforced.

I’ve rarely been that way. Yes, there are core concepts that I hold strongly to, but I don’t hold any of them as sacrosanct because all of them rely on my own interpretations and filters, and I know that I can be wrong.

About race. About religion. About money. About politics.

But pride is a powerful thing. And so is fear.

And as long as we hold tightly to those things, and continue to fail in our ability to even acknowledge that a problem remains, we will never fix it.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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